May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

STEM Family Night – Fun Learning Night for All!

Posted: Friday, December 11th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

Seven years ago, a colleague and I were working on getting accepted to NASA Advanced Space Camp for Educators. We had been to basic camp, loved the experience, and knew for us to be accepted for Advanced Camp that we had to do something big. We decided to do a Space Night at our elementary school, have a pre-registration sign-up, invite scientists and educators from around Los Angeles come to do a 45-minute workshop, and it would be just the thing to get us accepted. 7 years later, Science Night is now the biggest event of the school year, with over 2/3 of the student body and their families attending on a Friday night in the spring (and yes, we were both accepted into Advanced Camp!).

There are many different ways of hosting or leading an evening STEM night. Before teaching elementary, I taught 8th grade Physical Science at a school that every subject had a night activity during the year. We had a Math Night, Social Studies Night, Science Night, and English/Language Arts Night- all of which were well-attended, and planned to be about 2 months apart from each other, to not interfere with the other events. Each classroom teacher was in charge of some kind of hands-on activity in some aspect of their subject matter. For example- for Science Night, one room was dissecting squid (with a side table cooking up the squid to much on), another room made bracelets with each color of bead representing a genetic trait, one room had a “murder mystery”, where the students had to look at the fingers swirls of the suspects (classroom teachers), and try to figure out who committed the crime. Each activity did not cost too much, was able to be completed in about 10 minutes, and had some component to take home- either the actual activity, or a handout that explained the science behind what they did. The hope would be that when they saw the paper, bracelet, etc, that it would help them remember what they had done that evening, and inspire more questions or thought.

At my current school, we had not done anything of that matter before. Doing a Science Night at an elementary school was easier in some aspects (thinking of something hands-on that covers a concept is easier when thinking about a 6-year-old as opposed to an 8th grade student), but also remembering that an elementary school is much more likely to have very young siblings that shouldn’t have items easily placed in their mouth makes it more challenging. Over the years, Science Night changed from a pre-registration, maximum of 30 people per workshop, and only 2 workshops in an evening, to an Open-House format, with 15 workshops, and a 3-hour window of time. In addition to the workshops, there is normally 2 or 3 shows – animal shows, a “bug guy,” or some presenters from a workshop doing a bigger production.

So how do you go about starting a STEM night? Begin with what surrounds your community. If you teach in a Title I school, there are a bunch of companies and museums that will come to your school in the evenings to lead programs, either for free or at a very reduced cost. Many large companies, particularly in the aerospace industry, have programs for schools that vary between guest speakers to building paper airplanes, to shooting off rockets – all you have to do is ask!

Depending on your school demographics, you may have some parents or community members that are in STEM fields that would be willing to come out to show what they do. Pictures, videos, maybe a small hands-on activity is all that so many kids need to get inspired for a new career option that they had never considered before.

But what about if you live in an area that doesn’t have a company around willing to host, and the families or community members are not interested in presenting? If you have a few teachers willing to jump in, you can still make an incredible night! NASA has a number of easy-to-lead, hands-on activities such as “toys in space,” in which the kids make or play with a variety of toys, and then can watch videos of the toys being played with on the International Space Station. I have had parents lead a “fun fly” station, where they can play with battery-operated “wands” to create a static field in order to keep small mylar shapes upright. Have a teacher who is a fan of coding? Bring out some iPads, and have the students do some simple coding with Scratch Jr. or a similar program. Options are endless!

Over the years, our school’s Cub Scouts have gotten involved, selling pizza for the night. The boys are excited, because it helps them earn badges, the families get fed, and the scouts have then donated the proceeds back to the science program- everyone wins!

While it can take a lot of prep to get started, the magic that a STEM night produces for the students, the school, and the community is incredible. Give it a shot! If you need ideas on how to get an evening started, please feel free to contact me!

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, and is CSTA’s Intermediate (grade 3-5) Director.

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.